Okay, the first question is “Why?” The 1960 version, from its iconic cast to its rousing score, is nearly perfect. The remake ups the violence and creates a more politically acceptable villain (i.e., a white businessman instead of a Mexican bandito). Sarsgaard’s villain is a flat, mustache twirling psycho murderer, whereas Eli Wallach’s Calvera was mostly looking to keep his men fed.
But the worst change is making it personal. The charm of the original was that the 7 were dinosaurs with little call for their skills and looking to earn a few bucks. When Calvera captures them, he doesn’t kill them because he’s afraid all their friends will cross the border looking for revenge. The sad irony here is that these guys have no friends up north. All they have are the bonds forged with each other as they worked with the peasants on defense. And lo and behold, they’ve become invested in the village. The remake gives Denzel’s Chisolm a personal reason to gather the 7, which strikes a false note at the end.
Wisely, they kept some of the iconic lines, like, “I have been offered a lot for my work, but never everything.” And “If God didn’t want them sheared, he would not have made them sheep.”
Vincent D’Onofrio (not one of my fave actors, as a rule) is a hoot here; he and Pratt look like they’re enjoying themselves.